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Review week begins: Ecco New City Classic shoes, and Stephen Goodwin's Dream Golf

Review week is here and started, though a little later than expected because of pressing business commitments. And they weren’t on the golf course. Needless to say there’s some interesting reading out there today, including Michelle Wie’s failed attempt to make the US Open. Also worth checking out is Lorne Rubenstein’s account of the renovation of the National Golf Club of Canada.

Rubenstein has this to say:

When it opened in 1974, it was called, simply, the National Golf Club. Later the name was changed to the National Golf Club of Canada. Whatever the name, the National in Woodbridge, Ont. remains a singular statement of penal golf. It’s an anachronism in that way, and appealing for that very reason. But is the National still a great course? Some significant changes have been made to the course, the latest of which the club unveiled last weekend when the members played the full layout for the first time. I played it this week, and felt some changes work while others are questionable.

His comments have evoked some responses from critics – including one sent my way today – that are quite harsh. In my mind, the National is like that tough uncle that you are fond of, but are glad you only see once a year. After a while, the uncle is just a little too unrelenting, just like the National. It is an difficult course – but I wonder if simply being difficult is enough these days. I haven’t seen the changes, but Lorne is correct when he calls it an anachronism. The National – even with its new alterations – is out of step with the fashion of modern golf courses.

Lorne’s entire piece on Scoregolf.com is here.

Review: Ecco Shoes – New Classic City [photopress:New_Classic_City___Cognac1.jpg,full,alignright]How do you review a golf shoe? That’s the question I’ve been pondering while stomping around a bunch of fairways in these fine looking shoes. I’ve been partial to Ecco shoes for some time – several years in fact. And in an industry where golf writers are inundated with products sans costs, I’ve shelled out many times over the past three or four seasons to get a new set of Eccos on my feet. Most times I have two pairs on the go.

In the case of the New Classic City by Ecco – the stylish shoe fits the tag line. This is an elegant shoe that has all the classic characteristics and visual appeal of shoes from golf’s golden age, while also offering all of the technology and comfort for which Ecco has become renowned. As a regular walker who plays a lot of golf, these shoes are among the most comfortable I’ve ever worn. Unlike some earlier Eccos that have graced my feet, the New Classic City took a couple of rounds to break in – but it was worth it. It is called style baby – and I like it when my feet look good. The New Classic City is listed at US$149.99 on Amazon.com. In my mind there’s hardly a better golf shoe on the market.

Review: Dream Golf (book) by Stephen Goodwin ($24.95 US) Bandon Dunes is one of the most remarkable places on earth. And Stephen Goodwin’s account of Chicago businessman Mike Keiser’s attempt to rally against convention and build a golf course on a remote site in Oregon is as compelling a golf book as I’ve read. Goodwin is successful largely because he had unlimited access to Keiser and the cast of characters that populated the greeting card maker’s various golf projects.

The story truly begins in Oregon where Keiser hires the then unknown David McLay Kidd to build his first golf course, only to find there isn’t a suitable routing. Some serendipity leads to more land and opens the book up to include a wonderful cast of characters, including Pete Sinnott, and the looming, but extremely helpful Howard McKee. In fact, Keiser largely turned to trusted friends for assistance when creating Bandon Dunes. The book follows largely the same cast of characters as they attempt to recreate the success of Bandon at Pacific Dunes with architect Tom Doak and again (though with less detail) at Bandon Trails with Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. So what golf lessons can be learned in Dream Golf? Well, one thing is clear – Mike Keiser’s determination in his project, coupled with his clear focus on how it should be promoted, created a great golf destination. Don’t get me wrong – McLay Kidd, Doak and Coore/Crenshaw built the golf. But Keiser understood how to take it to the next level and it is in this area where Dream Golf is truly fascinating. In the era of big-budget high-end public golf, with massive construction budgets and thousands spent on advertising, Keiser understood how to use the media to create interest in his project. If he had advertised Bandon when it first opened, it would have been a curiosity. But by bringing all the right people (staffers from T&L Golf, Golf Digest, Golf and Golfweek) to see the course(s) led to more effective publicity and credibility than he could ever have purchased.

Throughout it all, Goodwin walks the reader through the process with an eye for detail that few writers have. Maybe it is the fact that he isn’t a golf writer that led Goodwin to ask all the right questions of the right people. Regardless, like the courses it profiles, Dream Golf is worth turning to time and again.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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